How Long Does it Take for Bird Eggs to Hatch? Learn About the Nesting Cycle of Birds from Egg to Flight

Birds are pretty fascinating creatures. They’re the only living beings on our planet with feathers. They can fly, hop, or walk to their destination. They offer unique calls and tweets like no other.

It’s only natural to want to know more about these beautiful animals.

One thing that’s intriguing about birds is their nesting cycle. Bird species have different habits and different ways of nesting.

In this article, you can learn just about everything there is to know about the avian nesting cycle’s common stages.


How Long Does It Usually Take for Bird Eggs to Hatch?

The eggs of different bird species hatch at different lengths of time.

On average, once the eggs are laid, it usually takes ten days to two weeks to hatch.

Generally, it takes longer for eggs of larger bird species to hatch and vice versa.

For instance, it takes about 35 days for bald eagle eggs to hatch.

A robins egg, however, takes only approximately 13 days.

Either way, both robins eggs, and bald eagle eggs hatch in the nick of time.

It’s incredible how quickly it baby birds make their grand appearance into the world!


Stages of Nesting Cycle

The nesting cycle of birds begins with building the nest to the time the baby birds fly.

You can learn about each stage of the nesting cycle below.


The Nest Building Stage

After finding a mate, it’s time for birds to begin to build a nest.

The goal is to find a place that’s safe and semi-remote. Otherwise, predators may find the nest.

Birds might look around for a while before they find the perfect spot.

Birds might put nests in trees, on human-made structures, or in bushes, for instance.

Materials of nests also vary. Some get made with twigs. Others may contain mud, dead leaves, or even thread.

Some bird species, however, may completely skip the nest-making step.

Instead of building a nest, some species plan to place their eggs in a cavity or ground.


The Egg Laying Stage

Once the nest gets made, the female bird can then lay her eggs when it’s time.

Normally, ovulation of birds and egg-laying take around 24 hours. That said, most bird species lay up to one egg a day.

In total, a bird may only lay two or three eggs.

Other species, like wood ducks, might lay up to 15 eggs during a single nesting session! Some may even just lay one.

The number of eggs a bird lays all comes down to the following:

  • species
  • age of the female
  • weather

And many more factors.


The Incubation Stage

Laying eggs seems very simple. A bird just lays and waits, right?

Wrong. This is when the real work comes in.

The female and/or male bird will keep the eggs warm via incubation. Sometimes both mother and father will take turns incubating the eggs.

The purpose of incubation is to keep bird eggs at or near a certain temperature.

However, it’s possible that the eggs can be alone for a while without the mother and father. This gives them the opportunity to stretch their wings and find sources of food.

Although, one must return at some point to incubate the eggs again before they get too cold.

Without proper incubation, the contents within eggs will die.

Improper incubation is a common reason why bird eggs aren’t successful at hatching.

Fortunately, birds have instincts that encourage them to incubate their eggs.

In fact, they have a special brood patch or incubation patch that helps with this process.

This patch of missing feathers allows direct contact with the warmth of the parent’s skin. This allows the eggs to be warm, even during the winter season.


The Hatching Stage

If incubation is successful, and the egg is healthy, they’ll eventually hatch.

Hatching times vary based on the species but can take weeks from the time they enter the nest.

Sometimes bird eggs, even in the same nest, will hatch at different rates. The hatching may take place hours or days apart.

And for one egg to hatch, it may take a little one a few hours to completely release from the egg.

It’s important to never try to “help” a bird hatch.

Doing so can make the process even harder, or the baby may not be able to hatch at all. Other times, you may unintentionally transfer germs or diseases by doing so.


Caring for Nestlings

In some cases, like in the case of ducks, they immediately leave the nest after hatching.

However, most birds don’t have this luxury.

Many birds after hatching are blind and featherless. In this case, they’re unable to find their own food, hence why their parent(s) must feed them.

Diets of baby birds range from small insects to tiny seeds.

But in many cases, after hatching, nestlings require care from one or both parents still.

The hatched chicks will eventually grow bigger, stronger, and gain independence.

However, in the meantime, apart from feeding, parent(s) may continue sitting on their babies.

Sitting on hatchlings keeps their tiny, featherless bodies warm. This also helps keep them safe from hungry predators.


Fledging, Flying, and Leaving the Nest

Once the mother and/or father raised their young, it’s time for them to gain independence.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t take long for a bird to fledge and fly.

First, before flying, a baby bird will start to fledge.

A fledgling will have some, but not all, of their feathers yet. They’re now strong enough to leave the nest via hopping and short flights.

Sometimes humans might think a fledgling is actually a baby that “fell out of” his or her nest.

In reality, they might just be practicing being independent. And while vulnerable to injury and death, this exploration is critical for them.

For several days, a baby bird might fledge.

In the meantime, their muscles will get stronger, and their wings will further develop. And eventually, they’ll be able to fly more gracefully.

It can be a lot of work, but they’ll get the hang of it in no time.

Once they’ve left the nest, they’ll get the opportunity to truly explore the world around them. Wow, life is so much bigger and more exciting outside of a tiny, cooped-up nest!


The Short Answers to the Frequently Asked Questions About the Nesting Cycle

1. How Long Do Baby Birds Stay in the nest?

While it varies based on species, birds usually spend about two to three weeks in the nest. 

However, bigger species of birds may stay longer.

Birds like raptors don’t leave the nest for about 8 to 10 weeks. Now, that’s a long time!


2. How Long Does it Take Baby Birds to Fly?

At about two weeks old, birds begin the process of flying.

Depending on the species, they may start to fly at ten days or even three weeks of age.

Generally, it can take hours to days for them to get the hang of flying and officially take off from the nest.


3. Can Bird Eggs Hatch without Mother?

The mother knows best.

The mother bird will know if her eggs are properly incubated and kept at the right temperature.

It’s normal and totally safe for mother birds to leave her nest attended for a period of time.

That said, the eggs can hatch without the mother or father being present.

As long as the eggs are warm before hatching, and the bird receives adequate care afterward, all is well.

Given this information, bird eggs can hatch via man as well if conditions are precise.

Although, one someone with the proper license and knowledge provides artificial incubation.


4. What to Do if You Find a Bird Egg?

It’s not uncommon to find a bird egg on the ground or left unattended in a nest.

Unless you’re an expert, it’s best to leave bird eggs alone.

Not only are bird eggs hard to hatch, but it can be illegal.

The Migratory Bird Act states that without a permit, one can’t possess the eggs of a native bird.

If you find an egg that is of an exotic or rare species, call a wildlife rehabilitator. When in doubt, get in touch anyway.


5. What Birds Lay Eggs on the Ground?

Surprisingly, there are many birds who lay eggs on the ground.

Peregrine falcons, some species of quail, pheasants, and partridges lay on the ground.

Normally, birds who are weak flyers or cannot fly lay eggs on the ground.


6. What Do Birds Do with Unhatched Eggs?

An egg that doesn’t hatch indicates that it wasn’t fertilized or that it’s a “bad egg.”

If the egg contains a disease, the bird will normally discard it, often by dropping it out of the nest.

Other times, a bird may simply leave the nest if it contains an unhatched egg.